Born: c. 1893 – Kohukohu
Died: 19 September, 1957 – Gisborne
Test record: 1 Test (1924) – 0 points
A New Zealand Māori representative in rugby union and rugby league, Bill Te Whata played one Test for New Zealand against the touring England team in 1924.
Northland-born Te Whata played for East Coast and Poverty Bay in 1921, before taking on South Africa’s touring Springboks in Napier twice in the space of five days – for a combined Poverty Bay-Hawke’s Bay team and for New Zealand Māori .
The following season, with dual international George Gillett said to have played a key role, Te Whata headed to Auckland to play rugby league for the first time in a New Zealand Māori team against Auckland. A strong showing in that match preceded his selection in the Māori squad for a tour of Australia, where he was recognised as a standout performer.
Also in a jam-packed 1922 season in his new code, second-rower Te Whata joined the Fire Brigade club, represented Auckland against NSW and scored three tries as part of an Australasian combination that played NSW in an exhibition match in Auckland.
Desperate to return to his former club on the East Coast, Te Whata tried and failed (repeatedly) to gain reinstatement to rugby union from the NZRFU in what was a widely reported case. He subsequently went back to rugby league and, remarkably, was drafted straight into New Zealand’s forward pack for the 1924 series opener against England.
Te Whata partnered West Coast’s Thomas Mouat in the second-row as the home side defeated the tourists 16-8 at Carlaw Park but Bill Devine and Lou Petersen were preferred for the remaining two Tests.
He played for Athletic (later Grafton Athletic) at club level and turned out for Auckland and the star-studded 1925 Queensland tourists.
Returning to Tokomaru Bay several years later, Te Whata’s bid for reinstatement to rugby union was reportedly rejected once again.